TODAY’S MAIL FRAUD: “SWEEPSTAKES”

•March 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

What would you do if it appeared that paying $139.99 would seem to exponentially increase your chances of winning $2 million? What if you received three solicitations from the same Award Notification Commission (ANC) on the same day? Well, if you are elderly you might have sent some scamming scumbags in Kansas City, KS a total of $229.87 (that’s including two $3 “Rush Processing” charges).

Many of the so-called “sweepstakes” and “award notification commissions” scam the elderly by requiring an up-front fee for “premium offer delivery.” They also state that this fee is “mandatory” and “not an option.”SWEEPSTAKES 3

The forceful and manipulative language used by these fraudulent award notification commissions is purposely misleading the elderly into mailing them thousands of dollars.

SWEEPSTAKES 5

Sure, there is a disclaimer: “No purchase necessary. Purchase will not increase chance of winning.” But, that still doesn’t seem to trump the prevalent use of forceful language (“MANADATORY” and “REQUIREMENT”) in the minds of the elderly (especially those with even mild cognitive challenges).

SWEEPSTAKES 1SWEEPSTAKES 4

Legitimate sweepstakes (if such a thing truly exists) do not require any payment upfront–not for “special processing,” “disbursement fees,” or “taxes.”

So, what do the elderly get for the money they send the sweepstakes scammers?

  • Divine Four Leaf Clover Pendant on an 18″ Gold Tone Necklace
  • Genuine Pink Tourmaline Pendant
  • Sparkling-citrine Coloured Crystal Pendant
  • MORE mail solicitations

THEY GET JUNK. They get a smaller bank account. And, of course, they get no increased chance of winning $2 million.

If you see your parents or grandparents receiving anything like the “sweepstakes” offers here–help them now! Examine the letters. Examine their checkbooks. Don’t think that this is nothing. If they are receiving any offers, if they are receiving multiple offers, there is a good chance they have already sent money to these scammers. Help them stop now.

 

 

 

 

 

ELDER ABUSE: MAIL FRAUD

•March 28, 2017 • 1 Comment

I want to call out a few of the organizations that operate on the margins of what is considered “legal” in their quest to milk our elderly of whatever income or assets they may have.

  • The Seniors Trust
  • The Seniors Center
  • Safe Borders Coalition
  • National Council for Survivors
  • Senior Citizens Alliance
  • Benefit Security Coalition

SASE outgoing junk mail

Notice that the top six postage-paid return envelopes look eerily similar. The letters that they came with were equally similar:

  1. Claiming they could not continue “X” campaign in Washington, D.C. because they were facing debts in a very specific, named amount (e.g. $17,653.22).
  2. Asking for a very specific, named amount (e.g. $16.73) as a donation.

Both of these manipulative strategies are designed to make the reader think, “Hmmm…that’s a very specific amount. It must be legitimate if they know EXACTLY what they owe and EXACTLY what they need from me down to the penny.”

Rest assured, while the above envelopes are going back to these organizations, they are not going back with a check included. They are going back with some very frank commentary (in bold, black magic marker) on their sad use of tactics that prey on the elderly. I am calling them out on their scams and telling them to take my father off their mailing lists.

I know it’s something that might not work. But, I will tell you that it made me feel a lot better and allowed me to vent some of the anger I was feeling towards these scumbags.

Again, if you have elderly parents or grandparents, I implore you to take notice of the mail they receive–the quantity and the actual organizations. You can check out many of the so-called charities with some charity-rating systems:

You can also just Google the organizations. Often, the first search result will contain the word “scam.” That should be a red flag (duh.).

If they seem to be receiving excessive amounts of mail (especially repeated mail from the same organizations), I suggest you find a way to get a peek at their checkbook ledgers or online accounts–they may be falling prey to the manipulation of these bottom-feeders and mailing away their assets or income one $10, $24.67 or $100 check at a time.

Spread the word.

DOLPHINS!!!

•February 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been fascinated by dolphins since I was a kid. I don’t know whether it was the vague recollections of the original Flipper TV series, the sightings off the beach of Anna Maria Island while on vacation, the Jacques Cousteau specials  or a combination of all three, but for some reason I’ve always been intrigued by and interested in these amazing creatures.

On those Anna Maria Island vacations I would often see small groups of dolphins moving up or down the beach at nearly the same times each day. While laying on the beach reading, I’d have my mask and snorkel and fins at the ready. As soon as I spotted the dolphins in the distance I would don my gear and head for the water. No matter how many times I tried–I never got close enough for an underwater glimpse.

This morning, I set out to get in my first training in the outrigger canoe in a week. It was a relatively calm, overcast morning on the water near Dunedin–just enough break in the clouds to let a little orange glow from the sunrise peek through. At about the four-mile mark as I started to turn around I noticed a couple of small groups of dolphins. They were feeding and frolicking and I just had to stop. Most were at least a few yards away, but one passed right in front of the bow for a close encounter.

It was an interruption to what was supposed to have been a continuous, steady workout–but, more importantly, it was a reminder of why I love to train in natural environments.

It also reminded me that I have a novel I wrote–with dolphins at the core–that is waiting for completion–as well as two other novel storylines with dolphins at the center waiting–waiting for me to harness the motivation to move forward.

Maybe today’s encounter will be the little push I’ve needed.

PRESIDENT’S DAY–U.S.A.

•February 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

presidents-day1Today, in the United States of America, we celebrate the birth of two of our greatest Presidents–George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The holiday is not about sales or just an excuse to go the beach, it’s about what each of these men contributed to the formation of our American character and our American nation.

Both men impacted our country in profound ways. On this day, I wanted to simply share some of their words.

George Washington

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism”

“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.”

“I conceive that a knowledge of books is the basis on which all other knowledge rests.”

“Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.”

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.”

 

Abraham Lincoln

“The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.”

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

 

Wise words from wise men.

 

 

STOP MAILING YOUR SH*T TO MY DAD: MAIL FRAUD and THE ELDERLY

•February 10, 2017 • 3 Comments

mail-5PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Stop mailing your misleading SH*T to my 85-year old dad!

Last week I bagged up (for disposal) six 30 gallon garbage bags of junk mail. I spent a couple of hours sorting through the mail my dad had accumulated because it was just too overwhelming for him to sort with any kind of speed. Why is my 85-year old father having trouble sorting this mail?

First, my dad comes from a time when snail mail meant something. If something came in the mail it was usually important. Sure, there were solicitations and “junk mail” back in the day, but they were typically more obvious and less overwhelmingly abundant. I’ve been at my dad’s house when the mail arrives and there are days when it does not fit in his mailbox–the mailman leaves it in a bin by his door.

mail-6Just a couple of days ago I was at my dad’s when the mail arrived. I went through the more than 60 envelopes with him. There was not a single piece of “legitimate” mail–a bill, a statement or other official documents. But there were plenty of solicitations, pleas and “gifts”–“gifts” that were “thank you’s” for the numerous small donations they had already scammed out of my trusting father with their manipulative tactics.

To call most of this mail is misleading would be a gross understatement. I’ve noticed several “tactics” that are being used.

  1. Blank Envelopes: If there is no indication of who it is from or what it’s about, of course you need to open it, right?
  2. Official-Looking Packaging
  3. “Urgent” Packaging
  4. Official-Sounding Text/Language
    1. “Confidential Checking Account Information Enclosed”
    2. “For Addressee Only”
  5. No Return Address/No Name of the Organization
  6. “Handwritten” Pleas
  7. Any combination of the above

In addition to these basics that you may see in your own junk mail, these criminals use particularly heinous methods to scare and manipulate the elderly. They use misleading and inflammatory language on topics relevant to seniors in their mailings:

  1. Social Security
  2. Medicare
  3. Retirement Benefits

Instead of actually helping–protecting the rights of seniors and their limited incomes–these leeches are bleeding away the elderly’s finances one $5, $10, $20 or $25 check at a time.

mail-1If you have an elderly parent (or grandparent), I highly suggest you start examining and talking to them about their mail–NOW. If they are receiving more than 10 pieces of junk mail a day–take a closer look. If they are starting to experience any type of (even mild) memory or cognitive issues, take an even closer look–and, find a way to examine their checkbook to see if they might be succumbing to the manipulative pleas and actually writing checks to these criminals.

The elderly often think that their donations to these organizations are tax-deductible contributions going to “charities”–but many are 501(c)(4) organizations (not 501(c)(3))and the contributions ARE NOT tax-deductible. Of course, you only see that if you can read past all the inflammatory language and make your way to the very fine print inconveniently located in just one place on their materials.

There is a blog I found specific to junk mail: ARE YOU DROWNING IN JUNK MAIL? I’ve found it useful–particularly as I go through my dad’s mail and try to get him off mailing lists one organization at a time. It has links to many of these junk mail offenders.

What these organizations are doing may or may not be illegal, but rest assured it is unethical and immoral. I encourage everyone to engage their parents, grandparents and legislators in this discussion and help end this travesty of elder abuse.

 

ORAMM: Round Two in 2017

•February 1, 2017 • 2 Comments

 

oramm-2016-start

2016 Pre-Race and Smiling

In July of 2016, I completed the Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell–a mountain bike race in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. I use the word “completed” because I did not have the best of days–finishing last in my age group and (I think) third from last overall. Still, I did manage to beat the cut-off time and suffered only one minor crash–but, those weren’t the race memories I’m used to having.

 

I had trained pretty hard for the 2016 event, but even with the number of cycling miles I put in, I knew that I could have done a better job in 2016–and, with some tweaks to my training, a better job in 2017.

My first realization was that I needed to better stick to my nutrition/hydration plan. I didn’t do well–it was hot and I did not hydrate well enough to compensate. My one hamstring was cramping and seizing up so badly, there were long stretches in the second half where I just couldn’t pedal without the risk of falling off the bike–I walked uphill a lot. I also didn’t regularly use the Hammer Nutrition supplements that I had been using in training. Finally, I just don’t think I put in quite enough calories during the ride–I finished with leftover gels and bars. My goal is to remedy that in 2017–sticking more strictly to an improved nutrition/hydration plan.

 

oramm-2016-finish-ugh

Post-race Not Smiling

My second realization was that the most technical single track trails were not nearly as horrifying as I expected. Sure, there were a couple of downhill sections that I didn’t ride (and still might walk in 2017), but it wasn’t nearly as technically challenging as expected. I do know that I need to get in some practice with tight downhill switchbacks–something I will do in 2017.

 

Speaking of switchbacks, I also recognized that I need more practice with the tight uphill switchbacks as well. I spent too much time off the bike in 2016 because I couldn’t make some of those turns while climbing.

ride-to-falls-pre-raceGear. My bike (Specialized Stump Jumper) performed well. No complaints with my bike. But, the soles of my shoes delaminated (maybe from all the walking?) just before the main Heartbreak Ridge downhill in the last third of the race. They were my (old) back-up shoes–used mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to drop the cash on a new pair of mountain bike shoes. I ended up zip-tying them (with mixed results) until I encountered a race medic who wrapped them generously with athletic tape. Of course, I’ve invested in a new pair of shoes since then.

Finally, I just need to do a bit more climbing. I did a bit of hill work last year–mostly at Croom on the trails and the paved roads close to Tucker hill–but I don’t feel like it was enough. So, in addition to riding at Croom, a training trip north to the mountains late in the Spring, I plan to get in some training rides in the hilly bits of San Antonio (Florida).

My goal for the 2017 ORAMM is to take (at least) an hour off of my 2016 time. Yes, a whole hour–that just shows how slow I was in 2016 and how much room I have for improvement!

 

Many? Some? Few? Demand Precision

•January 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

img_0981My cats and I have different interpretations of the words “a lot” and “frequently.” To Harpo, Lolie and Darryl (when referring to how often they would like to be fed wet food) “frequently” likely means three times a day (or more). In my mind, “frequently” is once a day. Likewise, I think “a lot” of catnip is about a half teaspoon sprinkled on a toy–for them, it’s an entire eight ounce container they can romp through.

These different interpretations are definitely linked to an agenda–mine is to not spend all my money on wet cat food while theirs is to eat wet cat food all the time. Likewise, they want to romp in catnip and run around like banshees all night, while I just want them to get a little playful for about 30 minutes.

manyvsmuchPeople have similarly different interpretations of what are called “indefinite numbers”–words like “several,” “many,” “most” “frequently” and “few;” or, even more informal terms like “oodles,” “a smidge,” “tons” or “a lot.” “Several” or “many” might refer to “more than 10” or “or more than 100” or “more than a million’ depending on the context and/or the individual. “Most agree” might mean, to you, that 90% agree, while to me it might mean that 51% or more agree–there is a difference in that perception. Why does this matter?

Skim the news headlines, Facebook newsfeeds or Twitter feeds on any given day and you are likely to encounter the imprecision of at least one of these words. These words are often (what do we mean by “often?”), used by authors and speakers to disguise the fact that they really don’t have concrete information (precise numbers) about a subject. Sometimes the omission of exact numbers is simply because the information is not available–sometimes, it is deliberately left out to serve a particular agenda. That agenda also can be more nefarious than simply getting served an extra can of wet cat food–it can be used to distort or obscure the truth.

Take for example this headline from ABC News in December of 2016:

“Trump has declined many intelligence briefings offered to him according to Senate Aide.”

I would think that someone (source or reporter) may have been able to quantify exactly how many briefings were declined (or at least narrow the range down a bit). That said, maybe the precise number wasn’t enough to cause the alarm the “Senate Aide” desired. Or, maybe the source really didn’t know the precise number; maybe the reporter didn’t have an alternate source that knew the precise number.

Of course, then President-elect Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus didn’t clarify matters when he responded that intelligence briefings were “happening quite frequently.” Again, “quite frequently” might mean “once a week” to you or  “everyday” to me. Was Preibus using indefinite numbers because he thought the regularity of briefings might not seem “quite frequent” enough to some people? Or, at the time, did he truly not know how often the briefings were taking place?

We’re lucky the people who use indefinite numbers aren’t writing our paychecks (“This week you’re getting paid many dollars.”) or prescribing our medicine (“Take this pill frequently.”).  But these vague terms are being used by politicians of every party, by traditional and non-traditional media–those with the power to influence and those with the power to act.

When you see the use of indefinite numbers in a news article/report, on Facebook or Twitter or even in conversation, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is more precision needed for you to understand the point?
  2. If yes, do you think it would have been possible for the writer or speaker to have been more precise?
  3. If yes, do you think the writer or speaker was deliberately avoiding that precision for some purpose?
  4. If yes, what was that purpose?

Demand precision when it comes to numbers. Read and listen critically–don’t be manipulated by your leaders, the media or your cats.